Ireland's Child Care Institutions during the 20th. Century. Fo'T: The most vivid and passionate stories - banished babies, cruel orphanages, old abuses of power - have concerned things that went unnoticed, or at least unarticulated, at the time. News has often had to be redefined, not as the latest sensation but as that which everybody knew all along yet could not say.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

This Never Happened, BUT..........

The Abuse of Children.

IN THE aftermath of the shock and horror expressed by politicians on both sides about the scandal of the abuse of children in Institutional Care, the most inane remark must be accredited to Taoiseach Eamon DeValera. Remember, the Child Abuse Commission exposed a litany of horror in the Institutions, including children being physically and sexually abused, abandoned and exploited and the reason, according to Eamon DeValera, was that the Inspectorate at the Dept. for Education was "duped".

It wasn't just duped; it showed an incredible degree of naivete, gullibility and a laissez faire attitude to the children's well-being. It would appear, from what the Taoiseach said, that the inspectorate had been aware of most of the appalling things happening in those places for quite a considerable time. DeValera said the inspectorate had been dealing with the Institutions and their management and thought progress was being made.

Then he said: "The Inspectorate believed that what they were told on these issues was being followed through and the systematic abuses we read about in this Report were issues that they did not think were happening anymore."

The issues that were happening in the Institutions, - several of which DeValera officially opened throughout his years as an elected member of the Dail, - included unaccounted deaths of children, criminal neglect, abuse, outrageous physical punishment, sexual abuse, child labour, starvation of children, the selling of babies to rich American catholics.....

It seems incredible the Dept. for Education should merely accept an assurance that such things weren't happening. In saying it was "duped", the Taoiseach in some way seeks to mitigate its responsibility to the children. The Dept. for Education wasn't so much duped as criminally inept in carrying out its responsibilities. But the worrying aspect is that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that similar, if not worse, abuses are taking place in all Child Care Institutions.

The system of inspections or, more accurately, the lack of inspections encourages unscrupulous Religious Orders to inflict a regime of abuse on their very young charges. Legally, the Institutions should be inspected twice a year but only one-fifth of them were "inspected" just once a year. Only God really keeps an eye on the Institutions because the State has deemed they need very little supervision at all, the standards of care being presumed to be impeccable in all of them !!!

It was with a certain amount of disbelief that the horrified outpourings of TDs of all parties were greeted because we could see the politicians in competition as they sought to better each other in the indignation stakes. The Minister for Education's apology to the children, and their families (those children that had any family), must have been a great consolation to them !! - and they must have felt sorry that the "Minister" should be so shocked and disturbed !!! No Education minister should have to go through such trauma !!!

Dr. Anna McCabe has time and time again called for a statutory, independent, transparent inspectorate with the right to close negligent Institutions. Nothing happened, of course, despite the fact that such a provision is contained in the Regulations governing Industrial Schools. You might have imagined, given the outbursts of outrage and indignation from the Dail over these revelations, that our national parliament was on the verge of doing something over this scandal and prevent it happening again. Seeing as a bill is being drafted at the moment which could facilitate such prevention, it would be logical to expedite and enact it urgently.

Wouldn't you ??

The problem is the Dail would have to defer its three-month summer holiday, which is about to begin, and nothing will be allowed to interfere with that. Eamon DeValera made his mind up very quickly about the independent inspectorate the bill could wait until the autumn - besides he has to get some work done on his eyes in Belgium this summer. So, while Eamon is away for the summer, the Religious Orders, who couldn't care less about those in their charge, can carry on regardless.

They have anyway, up to now, because the chances of being inspected are remote and even then the inspectors will give them a ring to let them know they're coming.

THE KNITTER

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